Thoughts on Amazon green lighting the WoT TV Show


Jason

As reported earlier today, Amazon Studios has greenlit the first season of a Wheel of Time TV show.  From The Hollywood Reporter:

 

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The long-gestating TV show based on Robert Jordan's epic The Wheel of Time novels is officially a go at Amazon.

 

The streamer confirmed on Tuesday that it had ordered the one-hour action fantasy to series, with Sony Pictures TV co-producing and Rafe Judkins (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), who adapted the books for TV, serving as showrunner.

 

Spanning 14 volumes, The Wheel of Time has sold more than 90 million copies internationally, making it the biggest-selling fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings (which, coincidentally, Amazon is also adapting for TV). 

 

Backstory in Brief

The story of getting the book series adapted for the screen has been long and tumultuous. A full history of the franchise's adaptation journey is beyond the scope of this article, but the short version is that the rights to the series were originally optioned by NBC in 2000, then held briefly by an independent group called Forsaken Films. In 2004 the option passed from Forsaken to Red Eagle Entertainment, who held the rights until they worked out a deal with Radar Pictures and Sony Pictures, who eventually made the deal with Amazon. During the Red Eagle years, multiple valiant efforts were made to adapt first book in the series, The Eye of the World, into a stand-along film, but those projects never took off. In order to prevent their option from expiring, Red Eagle infamously created the heavily-panned "Winter Dragon" short "pilot" that ultimately led to a lawsuit and counter lawsuit between themselves and Robert Jordan's estate.  The lawsuits were settled out of court. 

 

Rafe Judkins and current situation

In 2017, Rafe Judkins (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) was hired to be the lead writer and showrunner for the WoT TV show. He's since led a team of writers to begin developing scripts. Last month Rafe hosted  a Twitter Q&A where he talked, amongst other things, about the tone and focus that fans can expect to see. 

 

The Amazon deal is exciting because it comes in the wake of news that another big fantasy project, Conan the Barbarian, had been put on hold. This tells us that the studio has a lot of confidence in the WoT project, which seems to be ahead of schedule compared to the heavily-discussed Lord of the Rings prequel series that Amazon reportedly paid $250 million to acquire the rights to

 

With today's announcement, Amazon has approved the creation of a single season. We don't know how many episodes that will include, but given today's trends, it's likely to be anywhere from 8-13 episodes.

 

Rafe Judkins has indicated that this first season will focus primarily on the events found in The Eye of the World, but viewers should be prepared for anything. And while the specifics of the plot won't be revealed until the show airs, the clues we've had so far hint at larger roles for the primary female characters (Egwene, Nynaeve, and Moiraine) along with an emphasis on the positive feminist aspects  found in the books.  The WoT book series was first published in 1990, and at the time, Jordan received heavy praise for his forward-thinking portrayal of heroic women. Time and evolved thinking has softened those views somewhat, but it's clearly Rafe's plan to once more put Wheel of Time at the forefront of the discussion. Multiple news outlets emphasize this point.

 

From Variety:

 

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Headline: Amazon Orders Female-Driven Fantasy Series ‘The Wheel of Time’

 

Set in an epic world where magic exists but only women can use it, “The Wheel of Time” follows Moiraine, a member of the shadowy and influential all-female organization called the “Aes Sedai,” as she embarks on a dangerous journey with five young men and women across the world. Moiraine is interested in these five “because she believes one of them might be the reincarnation of an incredibly powerful individual, who prophecies say will either save humanity or destroy it,” Amazon said in a statement.

 

It's unlikely that Moiraine will be the primary main character in the TV show. Some fans have speculated that the show will be an adaptation of the WoT prequel novel,  New Spring, but we know that's not the case. If anything, it's more likely we'll see glimpses of the events from that book interwoven to help expand Moiraine's character. The focus of the series, both in the books and the TV show, will be centered on the Two Rivers characters. 

 

As always, as we learn more about the series, we'll lost more here. 

Edited by Jason



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I feel really optimistic in regards to Judkins writing, he seems to be very passionate about the story and characters. Amazon has the means financially to execute the series on a high-quality level and that also gives me hope. I think what will make or break the series will be casting. 

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The show's perspective from the three women worries me. Moiraine's perspective for this season is great, but what happens when we get to the Docks battle?? Nynaeve's focus is really not quite up to pasture thanks to Elayne and all of that. Looking forward to the Moghie fight. As long as they also focus on the Three, especially Rand. He drives the entire story. Apart from these worries, I am in. I hope that they deliver, I have been extremely excited since it was first announced last year.

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From all i have seen from Rafe so far i'm hugely excited especially him being such a fanboy, i would have had a lot more fears  a few years ago for this but with Game of thrones being such a good show and Shannara being the failure it was, gives them plenty to aim for and know what to avoid. Totally agree that Casting is going to be essential and if you just write Moiraine as the badass she is in the books it will all be fine. The three Boys definitely need to be the focal point, as was said, they drive the story in the early parts and Rand, Perrin, Nynaeve and Egwene  later on so they all need to be fleshed out well early on. 

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Man, I have waited soooooo long for this day!   PLEASE don't let this suck!!!  Rafe sounds like a true fan, so it sounds like it is in good hands.  Can't wait to see who they cast.  Matt is by far my favorite, can't wait to see who plays him.

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Fingers crossed.  Amazon seems pretty serious about the SF/F genres (LotR, Neil Gaiman, WoT), so hopefully they'll spend the $ and do it right.

 

I had to go back and watch the Billy Zane "trailer" to remind myself how bad it could have been.  *shudder*

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im getting nervous.  Why do the girls need a more emphasised role? yeah Egwene is kinda small in book 1 but Nynaeve and Moiraine certainly arnt. Plus in the overall story they all come out pretty even in terms of role importance and having big things occur, especially considering they arnt the main characters of the story.

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On 10/3/2018 at 9:09 AM, Conorpow said:

From all i have seen from Rafe so far i'm hugely excited especially him being such a fanboy, i would have had a lot more fears  a few years ago for this but with Game of thrones being such a good show and Shannara being the failure it was, gives them plenty to aim for and know what to avoid. Totally agree that Casting is going to be essential and if you just write Moiraine as the badass she is in the books it will all be fine. The three Boys definitely need to be the focal point, as was said, they drive the story in the early parts and Rand, Perrin, Nynaeve and Egwene  later on so they all need to be fleshed out well early on. 

Agreed. Shannara was a MAJOR disappointment and it had such potential. However, it was MTV and Fantasy is really not their wheelhouse. I really think Amazon will pony up and invest a lot in the series because they seem to want to be the "go to" for high fantasy.  

  I think the hardest challenge for the casting department will be the WoT fans. These are characters we have loved and known in our hearts (so to speak) for years and everyone has their own visualization. Fans might initially reject an actor/actress due to them not "measuring up" to their ideal. Hopefully, the fandom will try to keep an open mind and not immediately bash the show on social media after the pilot airs. Unless it ends up being "Winter Dragon Part II" if so, we all need to jump in and dance the spears! : ) 

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I think it's worth noting that Rafe's tweet from 7/30/18 mentioned AK (Amanda Kate) Shuman being involved as a writer. Her IMDB profile lists her as a writer for NBC's "The Blacklist" which is littered with strong female characters. As for that, "Agents of SHIELD" which Rafe worked on also has a lot of strong, well written female characters. I suspect this is being produced in a writer's room environment that's common in TV productions, as that's a background shared by both Rafe and Amanda. I think this bodes well for the potential quality of the writer's room Rafe has put together, especially if Amazon wants a show which celebrates the many strong women that populate the WoT universe. (Multiverse? Hmm. A philosophical debate for another day.) 

Edited by Delrik
Expanded end of post for clarification of my point.

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The logic of a focus on Moraine during season 1 is simple - it makes the reveal at the end of the season / book more of a surprise rather than it would if it focused on Rand from the beginning. If you have read the books you would know what was coming but, like the death of Ned Stark in GoT, most people watching the show will be surprised

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